… 3 … 2 … 1 … Lift Off!
In mid-February, courtesy of an invite from Inmarsat, Maritime Reporter & Engineering News had an up close and personal vantage point close to SpaceX’s successful launch of Inmarsat’s latest I-6 F2 satellite from launch pad SLC-40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
By Greg Trauthwein
While I’ve covered the global maritime industry for more than 30+ years, I’ve always had a personal fascination with flight, rockets and space. Being able to meld personal and professional was afforded to me via in invite from Inmarsat to watch its latest I-6 F2 satellite break the bonds of earth’s atmosphere atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
The SpaceX story by now is well-known, and the launch of the Inmarsat satellite on February 17 helped connect space and maritime in another meaningful way: approximately three minutes after launch, the first stage of the rocket – which provides 1.7 million pounds of thrust courtesy of nine Merlin engines – separated after its job was done, landing successfully on SpaceX’s drone booster rocket recovery ship that was sailing approximately 500 km off the Florida coast.
Enhancing Connectivity @ Sea
In the mid-1990s I was part of another industry event designed to showcase the possibilities of satellite communications: an icebreaking cruise off Finland’s coast in the Gulf of Bothnia, a demonstration by Inmarsat at the time to show the successful transmission and download electronic navigation charts to a ship underway. This was the dawn of electronic charts and satellite communications at sea, and the progress over the past three decades has been, in an understatement, staggering.
Fast-track to 2023 and modern shipowners and ship managers increasingly operate connected fleets, using vessel management systems and seamless comms for everything from real-time weather routing to equipment repair and maintenance to crew connectivity solutions.
Inmarsat is a long-tenured and leader in global, mobile satellite communications, and the latest I-6 F2 satellite – intended to be operations for the next 20+ years – is central to the organization’s investment in the future of connectivity at sea.
The I-6 F2 followed its ‘twin’, I-6 F1, which launched from Japan in late 2021, touted by Inmarsat as “the most sophisticated commercial communications satellites ever, providing a revolutionary upgrade in Inmarsat’s global coverage services for at least the next 15 years.”
Specifically, the new satellites, when fully operational, will add capabilities to Inmarsat’s ORCHESTRA communications network; described by the company as “a multi-dimensional, dynamic mesh network that will redefine connectivity at scale with the highest capacity for mobility worldwide.”
Watch the Inmarsat I-6 F2/SpaceX launch Video
Watch here the official Inmarsat I-6 F2/SpaceX launch, including the recovery of the first stage booster rocket onboard the SpaceX drone ship off the coast of Florida.